[Please note this was momentarily accidentally published early and incomplete. The below is both on-time and complete. Apologies.]
"A good big man always beats a good little man." I might as well begin here at what might well appear to be our conversation's conclusion. Spoiler alert: It's mostly not. That old pugilistic adage is indeed a good and often true one, but define 'good.' Please don't. We all know what it means within this context--but I'd like here to suss out who, between Usyk and Fury is the most good. Gooder, if you will. Please don't. Who, between the two and when squared-off against each other, will prove the better. Or if all things are equal, thus letting the adage stick.
Let's start by looking at the most recent of each combatant's performances. That seems simple enough. Fury (32-0-1, 23) last fairly trounced Dillian Whyte (at the time 28-2, 19) on 23 April 2022 via a 6th-round TKO in defense of his WBC and Ring titles. Of note is that this fight was pushed back in part due to Fury's team trying to line up a bout with Usyk for the undisputed title. So don't tell me Fury isn't excited about Usyk. What we can learn from the Wembley Stadium affair is, ultimately, Fury was bored. This particularly coming off the final two acts of the Wilder trilogy which really seemed to get his fluids flowing.
So bored was he, that he announced his retirement immediately, an announcement that I'd like to believe no one believed. But did he believe it? I don't really see how that matters. The man simply needs up for something and a big something. Think PT Barnum trying to hype the local Lion's Club BBQing chicken outside of an Albertson's. He would if paid well but then might afterward simply go fuck off. That's the mentality. The physicality is that Fury's dad-bod will by God's grace be ready for whatever right up until it is, on its own accord, not. As of now, we've seen no signs of not.
[Let me break in with this. I've heard it said that it doesn't add up that Fury says this potential bout isn't about money but that he demands 100M. One can be quite well off and still want more, so much so that it could be taken as a decent sign of intelligence and/or good mental health.]
I'm no psychologist so I probably should leave the mentality angle where I left it, but everything gloriously irregular about this man's brain has been made by his own hands to work to his benefit in and about the ring. You have to worry about that after this potential Usyk showdown, but maybe he'll piece it all together via exhibitions and a couple of WWE showings. Nevertheless, fit as a fiddle, as they at least used to say. He's possessing of a huge size advantage here and doesn't give much away in terms of movement if he does at all. Plus, his ring IQ is all-time impressive. Important to note is that we can't fault him for the level of his opposition.
Usyk (20-0, 13) is, on the other hand, coming off an at first blush much more scintillating victory. A reiteration of dominance over Anthony Joshua and in much the same form and way as the initial iteration. I've heard many agree that AJ put on a better show against him the second time around but I fail to see that. It looked much like one 24-round bout to me. The lumbering stiff Joshua was not able to let leather fly, so how could a KO (his only chance) ever happen? Usyk did come in heavier on 20 August 2022. I at first thought that was not to bully the challenger but to better absorb the challenger's bullying. Now, I wonder if it was a test to see how the extra weight felt with Fury in the future. It seemed to feel fine.
But it did not improve him and he needs now to face a far greater opponent.
Let's not forget Usyk cleared out the Cruiserweight division prior to all this. Let's also not forget that while technically marvelous, he never did show even at that lower weight, a helluva lotta pop. Nor did he at this heavier weight. You then have to wonder if he could even keep Fury honest. Thankfully and in the interest of an interesting fight, he has other means of doing-so... at least for a decent bit of time. He's the self-proclaimed 'white rabbit,' as we know. He'll find his angles and openings and will continue for as long as he can be perfect in getting it done. That will prove at the least supremely difficult against Fury. I suppose we now can state the obvious in that these guys are both good and really not one the goodest twixt.
Until I tell you Fury is better. If Usyk swept away AJ in the late to championship rounds, that would have had deep, deep meaning.
1883. The adage from up-top dates back to at least that year in its boxing usage. Seeing as the show-down won't reasonably occur until 2023, the old wisdom will almost assuredly celebrate its 140th birthday in relevant style when Fury stops Usyk early in the 9th-round. But I daresay that at the same size, Fury still wins. He has the intangibles beyond size--size is just the single glaring one. This win ought to set up Fury lovely for a new role as a pro wrestling heel. Imagine the heat! But is this all fair, the size advantage that leads in admitted part to Fury's easier success eight-point-five of 10 times these two face-off? At first, I'd say no. In 1883 there were no 265-pound pugilists. So then sign me up as an early adopter of the Bridgerweight division. Not quite, though.
Another adage, and one which aged less-well than the one we've been beating into the canvas is that the health of pro boxing rests on the health of the Heavyweight division. This thought has been shown currently incorrect by all the casual fans glomming to the likes of Canelo-GGG III and the looming Crawford-Spence. Let's go all the way back to the Four Kings, for that matter. I hate the word 'casual.' It's degrading of those who don't choose to live and die by fighters whose names sound cool and adept when muttered. Boxing has lived quite well and for quite a while in the absence of heavyweight melodrama atop; it's more now just the icing on a cake. Which is also technically atop, but you get the gist.
Cake. 265-pound humans typically enjoy cake. The reason I highlight the popularity of lighter-than-heavy divisions is that we all make decisions. Usyk decided to move from Cruiser to Heavy. Of course, there were bigger money fights but he'd not go broke fighting Bivol or Beterbiev at a reasonable catchweight or with them moving up as he has. And he'd definitely not be left panhandling after engaging with a fully steroidal Saul Alvarez. Simply, we need fewer weight divisions if anything, not more of them. Remember, each one of those things comes with a slew of titles we, even more, don't need. As grand a sweet science practitioner as Usyk is, he could always go down if ever up stopped working.
And miss me with the thought of a Super Heavyweight division. Deal me out. The term Heavyweight should be the limit, lest we dare defecate on the memory of too many kings and too many hills. You don't mess with mythology by creating a bigger set of gods within its own pantheon. 'Check out Thor Plus, he's an even better god.' Nope.
I'll deviate here because I feel I'd be remiss not to. I briefly mentioned Anthony Joshua, or as I like to call him, Frank Bruno II. I never insult a fighter. It's bad for one's health and also, I truly admire anyone who enters any ring. The thing is so much was so carefully built-up around AJ that made so many (promoters and governing bodies) so rich on the sweat of his brow, that it seems unfair. Business is business, though, and is also nothing new. Then, upon his second loss to Usyk, he dumped the belts and grabbed the damned mic and it was a live mic, to boot. None of the men who assembled and guarded his persona could stop him? Perhaps they at that point were done with that particular project.
All told, I don't think what he said was so egregious, however. Full of cringe and what wouldn't be at that time, but not terrible. It's never terrible to speak the truth and the truth is it was nice to hear him speak it. Or at least have the opportunity to while his team dozed off at the wheel of the gravy train. What would worry me is if what he said were out of character. I don't know him, so I can't know. Let's remember though that he had just completed prior to the 12-round fight, a camp full of sparring. I'm not saying he's punchy, as he seems to be quite with it, perhaps too much so, but this seems like a good time to bear in brain what these men bravely endure in terms of damage.
Maybe let's not have him fight on the posited Hearn schedule of what, four in the next year? Seems a bit much and perhaps a bit like a certain someone caring less about a certain someone else and more for performing the old cash-grab routine. Although call me naive I don't have Hearn pegged for that. Joshua is no loser and has not a whole lot to prove, especially since his limitations were already proven, and that is no shame whatsoever. He doesn't need to be rebuilt, not in the same manner as how he was built in the first place, especially. His name is a household name and he was the Heavyweight champion of the world and is still an extraordinarily wealthy man.
If that's a loser, then what the hell am I? Don't answer that. But let's do please stop all post-fight in-ring interviews. These are men who just went to physical and emotional war with themselves and their opponents. Some are quite young on top of it. Others are quite protected from reality thus appearing younger still. All have been hit about their head for longer than most of us, myself included, could slowly and with a frozen shoulder comfortably jog. Don't ask them how they feel and what they think and for God's sake, don't harshly critique their rebuttal utterances afterward. It's contemptible and unworthy of what they've shown us simply by their showing up.
So you know, and in conclusion, I truly do remain a massive Frank Bruno fan. I twice rooted hard for him against Mke Tyson. The man occupied an odd maybe off-kilter amount of my younger years. Still does. No idea why, but I like it well enough.
::: very :::